With a little work and ingenuity, professional conferences can provide a wealth of PR opportunity for a company leader. Speaking at conferences enhances reputation and visibility and positions an executive as an industry and thought leader. Speaking engagements can be used to build brand and product awareness in a specific context, highlight knowledge and expertise, and help build demand for the speaker at other events. Ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work proposing your company spokespeople? Here are some things to keep in mind.
Speaking engagements are giant networking opportunities. Not only will the speaker be afforded the chance to rub shoulders with other speakers and VIP attendees, journalists are often present (industry and local) and this setting provides natural access and the ability to build relationships. If the organization isn’t courting media, invite them yourself. Don’t forget to pitch your speaker to relevant local press.
Conference appearances beget more conference appearances. The more your spokesperson speaks, the greater the reputation as a thought leader, the more industry organizers will seek him out for other gigs. Also the more you merchandise the appearance through white papers, social media, press releases, slideshare etc., the more journalists and others will seek out your executives as a resource.
Conferences offer many ancillary activities. When your company leader is scheduled to speak, encourage him or her to take advantage of every opportunity that’s tied to the conference, such as pre-event activities, photo-ops, and on and off-site social events to network.
Collaborate for the best result. Your speaker knows the product/industry, but you have the cutting-edge communications skills. Assist in preparing the most compelling presentation possible to increase the likelihood of being invited to speak the following year. Encourage use of the most current best practices for PowerPoint presentations, infographics, video, etc. Provide speaker training if necessary.
Always be thinking of the next opportunity. Top conference speaking and panel slots fill up quickly. Keep a regularly updated list of opportunities with cal reminders to keep you on top of the schedule. Use byline articles, interviews, industry monitoring and other sources to help you develop fresh speaking topics.
And, remember to stay in touch with an organizer even if you’ve been turned down for an appearance. We recently contacted a conference with a panel scheduled within the week to propose a speaker “just in case of a cancellation.” The organizer contacted us right away with an open slot and, voila, a speaking opportunity was seized.
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